BMA backs withdrawal of NHS homeopathy funding

Homeopathic remedies should no longer be funded or commissioned on the NHS, doctors at the BMA Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM) have voted.

Homeopathy should not be funded by the NHS (Photograph: SPL)
Homeopathy should not be funded by the NHS (Photograph: SPL)

The motion was widely debated at the ARM in Brighton, but it was eventually carried despite a warning that it could alienate patients from 'conventional medicine'.

Dr Mary McCarthy, chairman of Shropshire LMC, raised the motion outlining that scarce NHS resources should not be spent on treatments that ‘have no firm evidence base'. 

She said: 'Let’s leave homeopathy to be funded by those who want to use it and who believe in it, and leave NHS scarce resources for proven medical treatments.'

But Dr John Garner, a member of the BMA's Lothian division, said stopping NHS funding for homeopathy would deprive patients who have found benefits from such treatments.

He said: 'All GPs know that some patients have undiagnosable symptoms. These patients after extensive investigation have no evidence of pathology but still suffer their symptoms. Some of these patients, for whatever reason, find benefit and relief in homeopathic treatments – be it placebo effect or not.

'I would prefer if I could continue to prescribe homeopathic medicine so they can continue to see me, rather than dismiss them with conventional medicine and risk alienating them when their symptoms change and serious pathology emerges.'

A separate strand of the motion, which called for pharmacists to place homeopathic remedies on shelves labelled 'placebos', was also carried.

Afterwards a DoH statement said: ‘Although we don't hold central data on spending on homeopathy across the NHS, we do know that the cost of homeopathic prescription is a tiny fraction (approximately 0.001%) of the overall drugs bill of £11,378 million.

'Decisions are made locally and issues such as safety, clinical and cost effectiveness, and the availability of qualified and regulated practitioners are taken into account by the NHS when making decisions.'

News Blog - Could it be the end of NHS-funded homeopathy?

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